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Migration squeeze pressures sector - HOSPA CEO Jane Pendlebury responds to the government's plans

It was with a groan that I read the official Government announcement about the plans for a new points-based immigration system.

As the Chief Executive of HOSPA, I’m well aware of the potential impact this is set to have on our members.

The hospitality industry is the third largest employer in the UK, but many of the jobs within it aren’t deemed ‘skilled’ – they mainly require hard work, determination and a willingness to go above and beyond. And always with a smile, of course!

Sadly, a career in hospitality in the UK is often regarded merely as a stepping stone – particularly for university students looking for part time or seasonal work. By contrast, attitudes on continental Europe are very different, with hospitality seen as a well-respected career path thanks to its wealth of opportunity.

Post-Brexit, HOSPA and other industry organisations need to work hard to try and change perceptions of our sector. It’s a career where you can start at the very bottom rung of the ladder and progress to the very top. This isn’t hyperbole either. There are countless examples throughout the industry, where pot washers or part time waiting staff have gone on to become General Managers or to head up leading hotel groups. There’s no ceiling to success.

The hospitality industry has already been heavily affected by the initial Brexit vote, with many EU workers feeling alienated and unwelcome. This latest move now goes beyond that. A vast pool of willing talent is set to be cut off from an industry already struggling with staffing. Consequently, the long-term implications on what should be a thriving trade are extremely concerning.

Brexit and immigration policies aren’t the only head winds buffeting the industry at the moment either. Coronavirus is a cause for concern for many of us. Not just the obvious threat to health that it holds for wider society, which is of course in itself a worry, but the knock-on effect on hospitality. Global conferences are being cancelled, although I believe ITB is still planning to go ahead as planned.

Chinese tourism is growing exponentially. Statistics in The Telegraph earlier this month suggest that between 2010 and 2018, Chinese overseas trips rose by 1,326% to 149.7million. By 2030 they’re projected to rise to 400million – an astonishing statistic.

UK hospitality businesses are already embracing this trend, with more and more set to do so as this welcome boost to trade continues. However, what is the impact of a prolonged outbreak of the virus likely to be? With new developments around Coronovirus happening on a daily basis, no one can really say – which makes planning for the future all the more difficult.

It might seem like an odd contrast; lamenting staff shortages on the one hand, while decrying a potential drop in trade on the other – as surely the second solves the former? However, of course, the complexities are far more nuanced than that. We welcome and want a thriving, busy industry. We want to be embracing new markets, while employing a diverse and enthusiastic workforce. I remain unfailingly optimistic about our industry, but its waters are difficult to navigate from time to time – and recent news is sure to cause some choppy waters. We just need to ensure we pull together to weather it.

Jane Pendlebury



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